Asia Pacific 1927: Northern Expedition

While the warlords fought over northern China, the Kuomintang had been building up its strength in the south under its new leader, Chiang Kaishek. In July 1926, Chiang attacked, his disciplined troops defeating the surprised forces of the Zhili clique.


Treaty Ports

Treaty ports were towns opened to foreign trade by unequal treaties in China. Foreigners operating within treaty ports enjoyed extraterritoriality, being subject to their home country’s laws. Unlike concessions such as Hong Kong, these territories were not directly leased by the foreign powers and did not have sizable foreign garrisons.

Treaty ports are not shown in the maps after the 1911 Chinese Revolution in order to give a clearer picture of the chaos in China itself and as by that point their numbers had stabilized. After the revolution, some of the smaller ports were phased out while the others became less important as the situation in China meant that only the concessions could provide foreigners with security. Most, however, still continued on into the 1940s when the Japanese entry into World War II and foreign agreements with China brought them to an end.

See this map for treaty ports in 1907, when the system was at its peak.

Warlord China

From the Zhili-Anhui War (1920) to the Nationalist recapture of Beijing (1928), control over China fluctuated as various warlords fought for power. The foreign powers handled this situation by regarding whichever warlords controlled Beijing as the legitimate government of China, even though these warlords often had no influence outside the city.

To depict this situation, this atlas shows the recognized government of China as warlord-controlled rather than as an independent entity, with its size changing depending on how much authority the government had outside of Beijing. However the actual recognized borders of China itself did not change during this period.

Yangtze River

By the terms of the Treaty of Tientsin (1858), foreign vessels including warships had the right to free navigation on the Yangtze River. In practical terms, this right extended only as far as Yichang until 1900, when advances in steam navigation allowed access as far inland as Chongqing.

Main Events

1 Jul 1926 Northern Expedition

Generalissimo Chiang Kaishek, leader of the Kuomintang (KMT), declares the start of the Northern Expedition, intending to end warlord rule in northern China and reunify China under the KMT. With 100,000 soldiers of the National Revolutionary Army, Chiang invades northern Hunan from the south, capturing Changsha on 11 wikipedia

10 Oct 1926 KMT defeats Western Zhili clique

Kuomintang captures Wuhan from Wu Peifu’s Zhili cliquein wikipedia

24 Mar 1927 Northern Expedition

Kuomintang captures Nanjing from Sun Chuanfang’s branch of the Zhili cliquein wikipedia

24–27 Mar 1927 Nanking Incident

US and British ships bombard Nanjing and help evacuate foreign citizens following riots by Chinese populationin wikipedia